The council’s “light-touch” planning enforcement officials appear set to allow another piece of egregious eco-vandalism occur, this time with the wanton destruction of a mature yew tree likely to be more than 100 years old.
The tree, on the junction of Hartley Down and Coulsdon Road, was minding its own business when a developer got permission to build a house on the site.
Let’s just say at this point that having a big, old evergreen close to a building site might not be optimal for every housebuilder. The tree’s roots might get in the way of the foundations. The deep, dark foliage might hamper decent light coming into the house once finished.
And wouldn’t it be a shame if, during the building works, and despite conditions attached to the planning permission, the tree somehow became damaged..?
Guess what? That’s exactly what’s happened on the Coulsdon Road site.
The developer, Coulsdon-based Nathen Harding, has gone out and hired an arborist to draft a report for the council’s planning department to convince them that the poor old tree is now in such a poor state, it needs to be hacked down altogether.
The report from the tame arborist at Usherwood Arboriculture says that as part of the planning permission, Harding was “required… to submit a tree protection plan to the council prior to commencement of works”.
But by April this year, when the arborist turned up to conduct his work and deliver to the council the report they had asked for, “substantial excavation work had already taken place and Croydon’s planning enforcement team had intervened with a recommendation to stop works until condition 13 had been formally discharged”.
This is what condition 13 of the planning permission from Croydon Council states:
Note the use of the words “prior” and “any” in the first sentence, as in “Prior to the commencement of any development on site”, meaning in simple, plain English, before building work begins, and the requirement that “a Tree Protection Plan shall be submitted to and approved in writing with the local planning authority”. Seems straightforward enough.
But as the arborist report states, “substantial excavation work had already taken place” even before he arrived on site. How could this be?
The report continues, “Following a conversation with the Croydon enforcement officer, it was agreed that due to the quantity of excavation around the base of the yew tree, it was no longer feasible to protect and retain the on-site tree as part of the development.”
According to the tree expert, the builder ought not have allowed any digging work within 6.8 metres of the yew. The tree is now condemned because, according to the arborist, “inadvertent excavation damage to the tree’s root plate”.
Some might take issue with the use of the word “inadvertent” in that assessment.
The report concludes, “It is clear that the original tree protection requirement can no longer be met and instead I suggest that this document is considered as an appropriate replacement to discharge condition 13 (Tree Protection), of full planning permission 19/00126/FUL.”
Having managed to kill a mature native tree, this tree expert suggests planting a non-native Austrian pine in its place.
So that’s all right then…
There appears to be no penalties or consequences for the developer for this blatant breach of the planning conditions.
As one concerned resident has said on the local Hartley and District Residents’ Association social media, “What is the point of having requirements which builders are meant to follow if they don’t follow them?”
Planting an Austrian Pine, they said, is “not a compensation for the loss at all”.
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